There's been a lot said about the Orioles' Brian Matusz going into this season.
As the O's are still in a rebuilding phase - despite the addition of talent onto the roster - how they will do next season and beyond will depend on their pitching. Well, Matusz is an essential part of that and everyone is hoping for the best for him and the young supply of arms in the organization.
Although Matusz started 2010 on a pretty rough note, and included a stretch where he only won one start in the months of June and July, the last two months of the season were breathtaking.
At the same time manager Buck Showalter joined the organization, Matusz started to come together. He kept his ERA slightly over 2.00 - at a 2.18 clip and a 7-1 record - over the final two months of the season also held his own against some formidable competition (much of it against rivals in the American League East). In fact, I saw him at a game in the new Yankee Stadium where he flat-out dominated a stacked Bronx Bombers' lineup.
Now in 2011, that seems to be a very distant memory. It is unbelievable how time can change things.
We all know that Matusz started the season on the disabled list and made a few rehab starts in the minors until he came back to the majors in June.
Since Matusz has returned, the results have been shaky at best. Right now, his velocity seems to be down a bit - from the low 90s to the mid-to-high 80s. Some guys make a living throwing at that speed; however, to see a young guy like Matusz in that range is particularly concerning.
However, Matusz has been successful at times and perhaps his decreased velocity might be due to his time off with an injury. Then again, he was hit hard in his arrival two weeks ago against the Tampa Bay Rays, but did look a lot better on Sunday versus the Washington Nationals.
Watching him work in his start against the Tampa Bay Rays was pretty cringe-worthy and I'm sure many fans were asking, "What in the heck is wrong with Brian?"
Overall, Matusz said all was fine and good to go; however, as a fan, you have to wonder if he was all right. Only he knows for sure.
Hopefully, it comes back. If it does not, Matusz will need to locate his pitches effectively and realize that the margin for error may become razor thin. I do not see that much reason to worry unless he starts getting shelled on a regular basis.
There's a reason why the Orioles made him their No. 1 pick in 2008 and he jumped through several levels of the minor league system - skipping Triple-A entirely - before debuting as a big leaguer in August 2009.
Despite his struggles, Matusz probably still has what made him remarkable on the mound within his pitching arsenal. He just needs to find it and get back on track.
Obviously, as a young pitcher, Matusz will have his ups and downs, and it has been a struggle for him this season. Despite everything in the past few weeks we have seen, he is still one of the core pieces of the franchise heading into the future.
Anthony Amobi blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O's appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.